Saturday 7 November 2020

Talking Trump (BBC-style)

The latest BBC departee to speak out - Mr Mark Mardell, formerly of The World This Weekend - said this on yesterday's Feedback:
I mean, my worry about the reporting of Trump is that people behave...and, I mean, I'm not saying he's not a strange man, he's not weird, and he's not an unusual president. He is. And I'm certainly not saying we should be bland and not say all of that. But a lot of the reporting over the years seems to me just going, "Wow, that's amazing! How extraordinary! My jaw's dropped again and again and again!" And it's like you drag an elephant on the stage and say, "Look at that funny long nose! Look at those tasks!" 

Now, if anything describes Jon Sopel's reporting over the past four years, this is surely it. Jon has always been very much a "Wow!" and "OMG!" man when it comes to reporting Donald Trump. 

His jaw has been in permanent freefall for at least four years now. 

Given that Mark Mardell preceded Jon Sopel as the BBC's North America Editor, was Mark having a pop at his far less high-minded successor there? 

I strongly suspect that he was. (Bitterness is quite a common thing).

Anyhow, Mark continued:

But you're absolutely right. I think people got this election wrong, or got the support for Trump wrong...because people weren't going out and talking to people, finding out what they believe, why they support Trump. To me that's the heart of what journalism should be about, not understanding what's obvious but the difficult things, understanding know, he is a strange man, he is a strange president. Why do people still vote for him in such huge numbers? It's essential to go out and talk to people.

Hm. I've heard enough of Mark Mardell's encounters with "strange" people who vote Republican or UKIP or Leave (etc) over the years to suspect that 'talking to people' isn't quite the guarantor of accuracy or foresight or impartiality that he claims it is if you work at the BBC. 

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